Parts Of Caribbean Island Of St. Vincent Unrecognizable After Volcano Erupts

Apr 24, 2021, 4:55 PM | Updated: 4:55 pm
Ash covers roads a day after the La Soufriere volcano erupted after decades of inactivity, in Kings...
Ash covers roads a day after the La Soufriere volcano erupted after decades of inactivity, in Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines April 10, 2021. (Robertson S. Henry/Reuters)
(Robertson S. Henry/Reuters)

(CNN) — For over two weeks, a volcano on the island of St. Vincent has erupted with unrelenting fury. Now, residents don’t even recognize their home.

“It’s like a desert, it’s desolate, it’s apocalyptic. The whole place is covered in gray ash,” Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, told CNN about the communities impacted by the eruptions.

It’s been 42 years since La Soufrière volcano — French for sulfur outlet — erupted. The 4,094-foot stratovolcano is now making up for lost time, blasting ash and debris miles into the air and neighboring islands.

For months, La Soufrière threatened to erupt and scientists warned residents to prepare to flee at any moment. The government coordinated with cruise ship companies to begin ferrying people from the “red zone” where catastrophic destruction was expected to take place.

Then, at 8:51 a.m. on April 9, the National Emergency Management announced La Soufrière had erupted.

Thanks to the early evacuations, officials said, there have been no deaths or injuries reported as a result of the eruption. But more than 7,000 residents have taken refuge in government-run shelters and a greater number are staying with friends or family, said Gonsalves, the left-leaning, Bible-quoting prime minister of the island chain who goes by the nickname “Comrade Ralph.”

With more than 10% of the island chain’s 110,000 residents at least temporarily homeless, the local government does not have the resources to address all the need, he said.

“We are not able to do the humanitarian effort, we are not able to do the recovery, we will not be able to without substantial assistance from the region and the global community. We are really at the midnight hour of need,” Gonsalves said.

As the volcano continues to spew ash and pyroclastic flow, a deadly mixture of superheated gases, rock and mud, the ongoing danger has complicated efforts to deliver aid.

“It’s not like a hurricane where you get hit and it’s over,” said Britnie Turner, the CEO of Aerial Recovery Group, a disaster management company bringing in supplies from the US.

The pandemic has also hurt efforts to help Vincentians impacted by the volcano, she said.

“Donations across the world have dropped dramatically since Covid started but don’t stop giving,” Turner said. “Even though we are all experiencing pain. Even though the world is a little bit of a different place, we still need to help our neighbors.”

In Miami, Michael Capponi, the founder and executive director of the non-profit Global Empowerment Mission, is filling containers with pre-packed boxes of food, water, face masks and hand gel to send to the island.

He called the disaster a “migrational crisis” as residents flee from the volcano to the south of the island and said his local partners on the ground still have been unable to assess the full extent of the damage.

“You have a foot of ash on everyone’s roofs,” Capponi said. “You have all the crops that are completely destroyed that won’t grow back for quite a while. Then you have boulders that were on fire that literally came through people’s roofs.”

Gonsalves said the government estimates that the volcano has already inflicted more than $100 million in damage in the last two weeks, with much more likely to come as scientists predict the volcanic activity could last for four months.

The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and even if St. Vincent is spared a direct hit, the heavy summer rains pose a new danger.

“There’s a lot of material,” Gonsalves said. “Stone and ash and they rest on mud. The rains will lubricate and they will add to the weight and they will come down at a very fast pace.”

Gonsalves said the disaster his country is facing may only be beginning. He said he has written President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for assistance.

“It’s not going to be an easy struggle but we are not a people of lamentations,” he said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

World News

An aerial view of destroyed buildings on Oct. 3, 2022, in Izium, Ukraine. Izium is still without el...
Adam Schreck and Vasilisa Stepanenko, Associated Press

Russian losses evident in key liberated Ukrainian city

The bodies of Russian soldiers are lying in the streets of a key city in eastern Ukraine following their comrades' retreat that has marked the latest defeat for Moscow.
2 months ago
FILE: North Koraen Leader Kim Jong Un (Photo by Korea Summit Press Pool/Getty Images)...
Yoonjung Seo, Emiko Jozuka, Brad Lendon and Simone McCarthy, CNN

North Korea launches missile over Japan, sending residents to shelter

Japan urged residents to take shelter early Tuesday morning after North Korea fired at least one ballistic missile over the north of the country.
2 months ago
Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury during the first half in Game Four of the 2021 WNBA semi...

Russian court sets Brittney Griner appeal date for Oct. 25

A Russian court has set a date for American basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal against her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession.
2 months ago
FILE: Ukrainian tank crew trains with infantry near Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Ukraine. (Photo by John ...
Jon Gambrell, Associated Press

Ukrainian troops claim gains in Russia-annexed region

Ukrainian troops pushed forward with their offensive that has embarrassed Moscow, with Kyiv officials and foreign observers hinting at new gains in the southern strategic region of Kherson.
2 months ago
Arema football club supporters light candles as they pray for the victims on October 02, 2022 in Ma...
Masrur Jamaluddin, Heather Chen, Raja Razek, Jake Kwon and Kareem El Damanhoury, CNN

At least 130 killed in Indonesia soccer stadium stampede

Arema football club supporters light candles as they pray for the victims on October 02, 2022 in Malang, Indonesia. A stampede for the exits after tear gas was released has resulted in at least 170, media reports said, with many still injured in hospitals.
2 months ago
The crowd gathering at Washington Square to march to the Utah Capitol....
Brittany Tait

Crowd marched to Utah State Capitol in solidary with Iran

A large crowd marched from Washington Square to the steps of the Utah State Capitol on Saturday to show solidarity for those suffering in Iran.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Parts Of Caribbean Island Of St. Vincent Unrecognizable After Volcano Erupts